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Climate change andfood security and nutritionLatin America and the Caribbean(policy guidelines)

Climate change andfood security and nutritionLatin America and the Caribbean(policy guidelines)Food and Agriculture Organization of the United NationsSantiago, 2017

The designations employed and the presentation of information in this informationalproduct, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Foodand Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning thedelimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The mention of specific companies or productsof manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that thesehave been endorsed or recommended by FAO in preference to others of a similar naturethat are not mentioned.The opinions expressed in this informational product are those of its author(s), and do notnecessarily reflect the views or policies of FAO. FAO, 2017FAO encourages the use, reproduction and dissemination of the material contained in thisinformational product. Unless indicated otherwise, material may be copied, downloadedand printed for private study, research and teaching purposes, or for use in non-commercial products or services. Appropriate acknowledgement of FAO as the source andcopyright holder must be given, while FAO’s endorsement of users’ views, products orservices must not be implied in any way.All requests regarding the translation and adaptation, as well as resale and other rights ofcommercial use shall have to be forwarded to information products are available in its website ( and berequested by sending an email to publications-sales@fao.orgCover Photo Rubí López

FOREWORDTogether with the eradication of hunger and the elimination of poverty, the Food andAgriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has defined - early in the 21stCentury - its third global goal as “the sustainable use and management of naturalresources”, in a clear understanding that the effects of climate change, their prevention and mitigation, constitute a core element in the development strategy: resilience of livelihoods is as crucial for families as food production and the guaranteeof regular and safe access to everything.The three goals are interdependent and reciprocal.This is how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in more than half of whichFAO participates both in the design as well as the monitoring, present challenges with cross-sectoralism and mainstreaming as their most noted features.The 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators agreed - undoubtedly the most ambitious agenda approved by the United Nations member states - approach complex social, production, sanitation and environmental issues, that requirecoordinated and integral responses, furthermore considering that the effects of initiatives focused on certain areasshall have to have repercussions on others as well.This way, the analysis of certain issues that are relevant for development, increasingly requires extensive views, bothregarding technical matters as well as the actors involved, whether as beneficiaries or affected parties.In this sense, although FAO is already assisting countries in the implementation of several SDGs, this document begins the analysis of an issue as relevant as the fight against rural poverty - approached in SDG 1 - and the eradicationof hunger - SDG 2 -, in a context in which climate change - SDG 13 - is no longer a presumption, but a concrete realitythat implies a series of conditions for development.At the time these lines were being drafted, the announcement was made that, on November 4, 2016, the ParisAgreement on Climate would come into force, as 72 countries, responsible for 56.7% of greenhouse gas emissions,have ratified it in their corresponding national parliaments. This establishes a new threshold of global agreementstowards sustainability.Latin America and the Caribbean have shown significant progress in matters of food security and nutrition, which ledthem to meet the goal undertaken in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Well, these progresses are threatened, among other factors, by climate change and the effects it can have over areas as diverse as food production,income generation, the availability of natural resources or the domestic food supply.iii

The work herein presented by the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean shows how climatechange affects each of the four dimensions of Food Security and Nutrition: the availability, access, utilization andstability of food.This publication is the first in a series that will approach these matters, in order to produce information to furtherdevelop synergies among different policy areas relevant to our region.Latin America and the Caribbean (policy guidelines)Climate change and food security and nutritionAt the same time, it is an additional element in the cooperation FAO has been carrying out to sustain and support theimplementation of Food Security and Nutrition strategies, within the context of climate change, as a key backgroundto consolidate sustainable development in the region.Raúl BenítezAssistant Director GeneralFAO Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbeaniv

1. Climate Change, Agriculture andFood Security and Nutritionorigin of the species used in production, which will determine the maximum potential in regard to productionquality and quantity, and its vulnerability (or resilience) to external factors, such as pests, diseases, waterstress, among others; (ii) the management by farmers ofagro-productive systems, seeking to improve surrounding conditions that are controllable to obtain the expected yields, such as irrigation, pest and disease management, weed control, crop rotation, soil nutrition, etc.;and (iii) the weather conditions, understood as suchnon-controllable environmental variables, as precipitation level, temperature pattern and incidence of extremeweather events.1.1. Climate Change and AgricultureClimate change shows in different transformations ofclimate variables that are causing significant economic,social and environmental effects. The IntergovernmentalPanel on Climate Change (IPCC), in 2002, has definedclimate change as “any change in climate over time,whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity”. Likewise, the Framework Agreement ofthe United Nations on Climate Change defines it as: “achange of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the compositionof the global atmosphere and which is in addition tonatural climate variability observed over comparabletime periods”. Both definitions coincide in the fact thatclimate conditions are changing, and thus the world,globally, is witnessing changes. IPCC itself has indicated, in repeated reports, that the increase in average airand ocean temperatures, ice melt increase, sea levelincrease, modifications in precipitation patterns (spatial and temporal heterogeneity) and extreme climateevents (droughts, floods, heat/cold waves) are directconsequences of climate change (IPCC, 2007). Thisnew scenario constitutes one of the greatest challengesfor humankind in this 21st Century, as it constitutes theenvironmental framework within which all human activities are developed, including agriculture1.It should be noted that, even when technological progress has allowed generating solutions that are applicableto agriculture, in order for it to develop managing temperature and humidity variables (greenhouses and mechanized irrigation, for instance), its capacity is limited to acertain threshold point. That is, technological progress,although a useful tool to reduce vulnerability of agriculture to climate change, cannot totally isolate its impacts.Likewise, the implementation of technology in agricultureis limited by its high costs, so generally it is rather linkedto medium- and big-scale production systems, than tosmall family farming. In the latter case, the intrasite management is more related to traditional techniques, suchas crop rotation, which allows maintaining the nutritionalcontribution of the soil, the biological control of pests anddiseases, manual management of weeds, and the diversification of crops, among other practices.Undoubtedly, the three factors mentioned above are closely interrelated. For instance, the genetic quality of cropstoday is determined by centuries and centuries of culturalmanagement that involves the selection of the best specimens , according to certain criteria, in order to use theirgenetic material as base to establish the next seeding orplantation. This way, the new cultivated generation willhave a phenotype profile that is closer to the desiredThe performance of the agricultural activity, in generalterms, depends on three main factors: (i) the genetic1 The term “agriculture” in this document is understood in itsbroad conception, and includes horticulture, pomology, fieldcrop farming, livestock, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry activities.1

one. With this, the best genotype has been selected,generation after generation, thus determining the characteristics of each crop, according to the climate andmanagement conditions in which it is developed2.importantly if changes in climate variables determine aconsiderable increase in its population. It is also possiblefor them to develop in territories where they did not originally prosper, as they did not have the minimum climateconditions to reproduce, but, due to the new conditions,they now manage to establish themselves in new areas.Latin America and the Caribbean (policy guidelines)Climate change and food security and nutritionAnother example that reflects the interaction amongthese three factors are the consequences resultingfrom greenhouse gas emissions from agriculturalactivities. In medium and big scale agro-productivesystems, the implementation of technology high incarbon emissions is frequent in the tasks required todevelop a productive cycle: land preparation, seedingor plantation, fertilization, technical irrigation, disease,pest and weed control, and harvest, among others.Although agriculture is not the main economic activity responsible for emissions, it represents 12% ofthe total carbon equivalent emissions at a global level(ECLAC, 2015a). Therefore, as a consequence of theintensive management, high in carbon emissions, of asector of agricultural activity, the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases has been aided, withthe resulting consequences on the discussed climatevariables.Likewise, global changes affect the precipitation patternin regard to temporal and spatial heterogeneity. Forecasts indicate that, by the end of the 21st Century, avariation in the precipitation level ranging between 22%and 7% is expected for the case of Central America. InSouth America, heterogeneous changes are also expected in precipitation levels, as in the north east regionof Brazil there would be a 22% reduction, while in thesouth west zone of South America, a 25% increase isexpected (ECLAC, 2015a; CEPAL, 2015b). The expected effect of this situation, in those zones where therewould be a fall in precipitation levels, is less availability ofirrigation water for agriculture, because snow storage atmountain tops is reduced, river flows fall, and water accumulation in watersheds decreases. With that, farmersinhabiting such zones will have smaller flows to irrigatetheir fields, reducing productivity.Agriculture is an activity highly vulnerable to climate change, as it depends directly on environmentalconditions, many of which are not controllable, whichgreatly define the productive levels and the quality ofagro-productive systems.Additionally, the region will be affected by more intense and frequent climate events, such as the El NiñoSouthern Oscillation phenomenon, oscillations in the Atlantic Ocean and tropical cyclones, among others (IPCC,2013b). El Niño, in the future, will continue to be themost important cause of the inter-annual variability inthe tropical Pacific and, due to the increase in atmospheric humidity, climate variability is likely to intensify(IPC, 2013a). This means that a greater frequency is expected in the incidence of precipitation-related extremephenomena (for instance), such as droughts and floods,that affect directly the performance of agro-productivesystems.This way, with the climate change seen in the changeof precipitation and temperature patterns, variations inthe distribution and intensity of the incidence of pestsand diseases, for instance, is projected. Therefore, apest or disease that shows up in crops with a marginaleffect on yields, could increase its damage on them2 This example is also valid in livestock production systems,in which the best specimens have been gradually selected forreproduction.2

On the other hand, in general, increases are expected in average temperatures throughout all months of the year, aswell as in daily temperature ranges. Forecasts for the end of the 21st Century indicate possible temperature increasesby more than 2 in Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, 2015a). This brings as consequence a change in theduration of the physiological stages of crops, which are based on the accumulation of chilling hours and degree daysfor their development, as well as in greater water requirements to meet the demand due to evapotranspiration as aresult of higher temperatures. This implies that, for some species, climate conditions become more disadvantageousfor development, while, for others, they represent an opportunity. Likewise, an increase is expected in the “zerodegree isotherm”, the altitude above which precipitation falls as snow and allows its accumulation on mountains.This will result in more runoff. Figure 1 summarizes the mentioned impacts on agriculture that have been previouslydiscussed.Figure 1. Consequences of climate impact on agricultureGlobal climaticchanges (among others)Impacts onagriculture (among others)Consequences fromimpacts (among others)1. Change inprecipitation patterns2. Increase in averagetemperatures3. Changes in CO2concentration levels4. Climate variabilityand extreme events1. Changes in agriculturalpotential of territories2. Changes in crop yields3. Changes in the type,distribution and intensityof pests and diseases1. Change in the compositionof crops produced, in the typeof agriculture and in land use2. Changes in production,agricultural revenuesand rural employment3. Changes in rural revenues,contribution to the GDP andthe commercial balance4. Increase in food pricesSource: Own preparation, based on Parry et al. 1998.This way, we have a scenario of land use reassignment in the mid-term, in order to establish those that have betterexpectations regarding performance and resilience upon the new climate scenarios. This, because species couldget established in territories where they could not develop before, which could represent an opportunity. However,in other territories, the expected impacts of climate change could imply a great threat to sustainability in agriculture,particularly in arid and semiarid territories, where already now water availability is little, and where future scenarios offurther water restriction are predicted (IFPRI, 2009).3

Latin America and the Caribbean (policy guidelines)Climate change and food security and nutritionAnyhow, and as previously indicated, climate change has as consequence a greater variability in climatebehaviour. This means that the difficulty increases inpredicting the future climate conditions in the territories that allow concluding, with certainty, that new cropswill have a good yield. That is, climate change is strongly linked to uncertainty for decision-making, whetherfor farmers or for public policy makers, because, eventhough conditions might improve for the developmentof new crops, the risk of bad results, given climate variability is greater.though it is hard to model3, there is a clear trend forthe projected temperature increase to negatively affecta greater number of species, instead of benefiting them.Endemic and highly specialized species are most vulnerable, because they have evolved to meet a specificecologic function so, if climate changes affect environmental conditions, their ecologic niche could be reduced and their population could be endangered (WorldBank, 2014).The Amazon rainforest is an ecosystem of the utmostrelevance at a global level, which is being significantlyaffected. The greater frequency of years with droughtsand higher environmental temperature, together withanthropic factors such as the impact of forest fires, landuse change and deforestation, threaten the sustainability of the ecosystem and its ecosystemic functionsand services (World Bank, 2014). As a consequence,a replacement of Amazon rainforest for semi-arid andsavanna vegetation has been observed, due to the drierand warmer environment, thus affecting the hydrologycycle and biodiversity (ACTO, 2014).In addition to directly affecting agricultural and livestockactivity, climate change will directly affect the availability and quality of the natural resources that are important for the development of different human activities.For instance, water resources, biodiversity and forestsare particularly sensitive (Magrin and Marengo, 2014).During the 20th Century, Andean glaciers have beenconsiderably reduced, and a volume reduction rangingbetween 78% and 97% in tropical glaciers is expected for year 2100, with low or intermediate emissions.Likewise, a nearly total melting of these glaciers is projected for high emission scenarios. For austral Andeanglaciers, reductions ranging between 22% and 74% areexpected by 2100, depending on the emission scenario(World Bank, 2014). The above is due to the increasein average temperatures at altitudes that lead to fastersnow melting and an increase of the so-called“zerodegree isotherm”.Another important example of the effects of climatechange is observed in the Central American Dry Corridor. It is a group of ecosystems combined in the ecoregion of the dry tropical forest of Central America, thatbegins in Chiapas - Mexico, and continues on the Pacific line of great part of the central pre-mountain regionof Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, andpart of Costa Rica (to Guanacaste). In Honduras, it alsoincludes fragments that reach towards the Caribbeancoast. In this region, it has been possible to note thatthe variability in the precipitation pattern has increased, with extreme events taking place more frequently:Likewise, biodiversity can be affected negatively byclimate change. Reductions are expected in the geographic distribution of some species, even to the pointof extinction. The above would be a result of changesin temperature and precipitation patterns that changethe natural environment where species develop. Even3 To analyze the impact of climate change on biodiversity,mathematical models of species distribution, dynamic models ofglobal vegetation, among other methods, are applied.4

Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security” (FAO, 2004), establish a set of specific measures inboth areas.extended droughts during the “El Niño” periods, whichtranslate into the reduction of water available to meetthe needs of human population or agriculture, and intense rains due to the influence of hurricanes, tropicaldepressions and storms during the “La Niña” periods,which lead to landslides, collapses and damages in public and private infrastructure. Natural habitats are veryfragmented in the territory and the effects of climatechange affect all population in the eco-region, whichoutnumbers one million people, that has subsistenceagriculture as the driver of its economic a

Food Security and Nutrition 1.1.Climate Change and Agriculture Climate change shows in different transformations of climate variables that are causing significant economic, social and environmental effects. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in 2002, has defined climate change as “any change in climate over time,

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